On Sept. 2, 2010 Michelle O’Connell went home with her boyfriend for what was supposed to have been the last time.  She had decided to break up with him.  She dreaded that confrontation, but had other, upbeat news in her life: for example a promotion in her job that would offer health coverage for her and Lexie, her four-year-old daughter.  She texted cryptic messages to family earlier in the evening that expressed ominous thoughts.  “Promise me one thing…Lexie will always be happy…and have a good life.”  Was she suggesting she knew she might snap and end her own life, or that her boyfriend, known to have a hot temper, might snap and end it for her?images-6

At 11:20 PM a call to 911 came in from Jeremy Banks: “my girlfriend just shot herself.”  Thus began one of the more celebrated, and debated, death investigations in Florida history.  Banks, a young Sheriff’s deputy, claimed a distraught Michelle grabbed his service revolver while he was elsewhere in the house, aimed into and down her own throat, and pulled the trigger.  Michelle’s family and friends, and many others, concluded that Banks forced the gun into her mouth and executed her.

Extensive coverage by local newspapers was only the beginning of attention to the case–from CNN to NBC Dateline to PBS Frontline to the Dr. Phil Show, and beyond, the case became a national, even international phenomenon.  Several levels of investigators and prosecutors have now combed over the case, generally concluding that no conclusive evidence of a crime, on which to base a prosecution, exists.  It’s unlikely there will ever be a criminal trial.  The case recedes into history.

What really happened that night?  Some evidence is contradictory, but does that make the suicide vs. murder dilemma a fifty-fifty proposition?  Does one of the scenarios emerge as distinctly more plausible than the other?

Join our exploration of the case that Frontline simply called “A Death in St. Augustine.”

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